SMSU FOOTBALL: Mustangs announce team awards winners

MARSHALL – The Southwest Minnesota State University football program announced its 2016 awards at the program’s annual team banquet held on Saturday night. The members of the SMSU team selected nine individual awards with senior linebacker Tyler Flud (St. Paul, Minn.) earning the program’s most valuable player award.

Freshman running back Max Simmons (Bloomington, Minn.) was named the team’s Offensive Player of the Year, senior defensive tackles Kevin Rubin (Detroit, Mich.) was named Defensive Player of the Year, while senior Raphael Lawson-Gayle (Los Angeles, Calif.) was named the squad’s Special Teams Player of the Year.

Senior safety Caleb Leichtnam (Grand Meadow, Minn.) earned the program’s “True Mustang Award”. The award is presented to the student-athlete who embodies the ideals of SMSU football on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

Senior offensive lineman Grant Greenfield (Sibley, Iowa) earned the “Ben Bundy Award”, recognizing the team’s top offensive lineman.

Three Mustangs were recognized for their roles with the SMSU scout teams. The Defensive Scout Player of the Year award went to redshirt freshman defensive tackle Malik Johnson (Cottage Grove, Minn.), freshman quarterback Luke Narveson (Belle Plaine, Minn.) earned Offensive Scout Player of the Year, while freshman Ben Specht (Marcus, Iowa) was named Scout Special Teams Player of the Year.

Flud, 6-foot, 225-pound native of St. Paul, Minn., earned first team All-NSIC South accolades for the second straight season. He led the Mustangs and finished tied for seventh in the NSIC with 92 tackles. He was also tied for fifth in the league with three forced fumbles. He recorded a team-high 10 tackles for loss and also had two interceptions. He finished his career ranking sixth in school history in tackles (300) and sixth in solo tackles (161).

Simmons, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound native of Bloomington, Minn., finished third in the NSIC in rushing with 913 yards, while recording 18 touchdowns on 178 carries. He was named the NSIC Newcomer of the Year and also earned second team All-NSIC South honors. He also caught 37 passes for 210 yards. Despite not playing in week one and having just one carry in week two, Simmons joined the line-up due to injuries and recorded six 100-yard rushing games and was one rushing touchdown shy of tying the SMSU single-season record. He finished second in the NSIC in scoring (10.8) and was 10th in all purpose yards (112.3). As of Nov. 14, Simmons’ 18 rushing touchdowns ranks first among all freshman players in all four divisions of the NCAA.

Rubin, a 6-foot-3, 301-pound senior from Detroit, Mich., started all 11 games this season and recorded 29 tackles, including 15 solo stops. He has 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and forced one fumble. He started all 22 games during his two-year career at SMSU and amassed 50 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

Lawson-Gayle, a 5-foot-10, 173-pound native Los Angeles, Calif., led the NSIC in kick return average (32.9) and was seventh in all purpose yards (120.4). Lawson-Gayle finished the season with 21 kick returns for 690 yards. He had kick returns of 40, 76, 73 and 53 yards in four of the last six games of the season. As a wide receiver, he led SMSU with seven touchdown receptions and ranked second in both receptions (39) and receiving yards (600).

Leichtnam, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound native of Grand Meadow, Minn., played in 10 games with nine starts this past season and finished third on the team with 64 tackles, including 39 solo stops and five tackles for loss. He was second on the squad with nine pass break-ups and also had two interceptions and one fumble recovery. He finished his two-year career at SMSU appearing in 21 games and racking up 141 tackles, six interceptions and 12 pass break-ups. He was named honorable mention All-NSIC South in 2015.

Greenfield, a 6-foot-7, 290-pound native of Sibley, Iowa, earned first team All-NSIC South honors for the second straight season. He helped anchor an offensive that ranked third in the conference in passing, sixth in total offense, sixth in scoring and eighth in rushing, while SMSU running back Max Simmons finished third in the conference in rushing. SMSU ranked 21st in Division II in passing (275.5) and 26th in total offense (463.0) during the regular season.

Southwest Minnesota State finished the season with a record of 5-6 and placed fifth in the NSIC South and tied for ninth in the 16-team NSIC.

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